NCAA Basketball: Coaches Not Coaching in End-of-Game Situations

Joseph SudbergContributor IMarch 27, 2011

Billy Donovan, Florida Gator's Head Coach
Billy Donovan, Florida Gator's Head CoachKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As usual, the NCAA Tournament has had its share of games that have come down to the final possession.

It probably is like that every year, but this year seemed to have a plethora of these situations in comparison to previous NCAA Tournaments.

You see it all the time, but I honestly do not understand why.  For example, the Florida Gators have the ball in the final seconds against Butler with the game tied and had a chance to put the game away in regulation.  

After a timeout—which is even worse—the Gators had the ball with over 20 seconds left and had a chance to win at the buzzer.  Gator point guard Erving Walker dribbles near half court for almost 15 seconds.  Walker starts moving forward, still a good four to five feet behind the three-point line, with three seconds left.  He heaves a three-point shot off a screen from two steps behind the line that clanks off the rim, and Butler moves on to win in overtime.

Billy Donovan, winner of two national championships as a coach, has half a minute to win on a last possession, and all he can get is a prayer three-pointer from a guard on his team who finished the game shooting 1-10?

We see it in the NBA and in college, where instead of trying to execute a play, a player simply waits for the clock to almost run out before performing some one on one move that rarely results in a basket.  I don't know if this is because of AAU basketball, or if the coaches actually preach a high pick and roll with five seconds left as the answer to win a ball game, but it is mind boggling.

It is refreshing to see a game like Butler vs. Pittsburgh, where head coach Brad Stevens draws something up in the final seconds of the game.  Before the fiasco with the fouls, Butler guard Shawn Vanzant received a screen on the top of the key from Matt Howard, down one point with seven seconds remaining.  Vanzant elected not to use the screen, penetrated the lane and drew a double team, as center Andrew Smith was wide open under the basket and made the layup to go up one in the final seconds.

A second example is VCU against Florida State.  The Seminoles had the ball with seconds remaining tied in regulation, but barely even got a shot off as they tried to win the game with a one man show.  

VCU's coach Shaka Smart didn't make the same mistake in overtime.  Him and his Rams were down one point with seven seconds left with the ball under his own basket. Instead of getting it up top to a guard and letting him be a hero alone, they ran a perfectly executed inbounds play and got rewarded with a wide open layup under the hoop to make the winning basket.

I understand it is about the dramatics, as it is thrilling to see a great one on one player like Kemba Walker shake Gary McGhee's shoes off and bury a game winner with no time remaining.  But this is the exception, and I believe most of the blame has to fall on the coaches.  

It may not be the most sexy way to get things done, but having Butler and VCU in the Final Four are two examples of how execution of late game situations is something that can cut a season short or have it turn into a season that will never be forgotten.

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